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EDINBURGH REVIEW, ,
Aet. I. – 1. The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice. By W.
GOODE, M.A. 2d edition. London: 1853. 2. Discourses on the Controversies of the Day. By W.F. HOOK,
D.D. London : 1853. 3. Means of Unity. A Charge by Archdeacon Hare. London:
as representatives of the three great parties which divide the Church of England. These parties have always existed, under different phases, and with more or less of life. But they have been brought into sharper contrast, and have learned better to understand themselves and one another, during the controversies which have agitated the last twenty years. They are commonly called the Low Church, the High Church, and the Broad Church parties; but such an enumeration is the result of an incomplete analysis. On a closer inspection, it is seen that each of these is again triply subdivided into sections which exemplify respectively the exaggeration, the stagnation, and the normal development of the principles which they severally claim to represent. And these subdivisions, though popularly confounded with each other, differ amongst themselves, as much as the delirium of fever or the torpor of old age differs from the calm circulation of health.
It would be an interesting task to trace these parties historically, from the Reformation downwards; to show how far they VOL. XCVIII. NO. CC.
may be regarded as continuous branches, how far as modern revivals, how far as new modifications of ancient schools of opinion. But this would require researches far too extensive for our limits. We only propose at present to examine the divisions of the existing Church of England, and to study their forms and boundaries, not as they would be coloured in a chronological chart, but as they would be laid down in an
Of the parties named above, the most influential in recent times has been that which is termed Low Church by its adversaries, and Evangelical by its adherents. It originated in the revival of religious life, which marked the close of the last and the beginning of the present century,—the reaction against a long period of frozen lifelessness. The thermometer of the Church of England sank to its lowest point in the first thirty years of the reign of George III. Butler and Berkeley were dead, and had left no successors. The last of that generation of clergymen which had founded the Societies for the Diffu
sion of Christian Knowledge,' and the Propagation of the • Gospel,' were now in their graves. Unbelieving bishops and a slothful clergy had succeeded in driving from the Church the faith and zeal of Methodism which Wesley had organised within her pale. The spirit was expelled, and the dregs remained. - That was the age when jobbery and corruption, long supreme in the State, had triumphed over the virtue of the Church; when the money-changers not only entered the temple, but drove out the worshippers ; when ecclesiastical revenues were monopolised by wealthy pluralists; when the name of curate lost its legal meaning, and instead of denoting the incumbent of a benefice, came to signify the deputy of an absentee; when church services were discontinued; when university exercises were turned into a farce; when the holders of ancient endowments vied with one another in evading the intentions of their founders; when everywhere the lowest ends were most openly avowed, and the lowest means adopted for effecting them. In their preaching, nineteen clergymen out of twenty carefully abstained from dwelling upon Christian doctrines. Such topics exposed the preacher to the charge of fanaticism, Even the calm and sober Crabbe, who certainly never erred from excess of zeal, was stigmatised in those days by his brethren as a Methodist,' because he introduced into his sermons the motives of future reward and punishment. An orthodox clergyman (they said) should be content to show his people the worldly advantage of good conduct, and to leave heaven and hell to the ranters. Nor can we wonder that such
should have been the notions of country parsons, when, even by those who passed for the supreme arbiters of orthodoxy and taste, the vapid rhetoric of Blair was thought the highest standard of Christian exhortation.
At last, this age of stagnation was ended by that great convulsion which startled Europe from its slumber. The triumph of Atheism in France restored Christianity to England. Faith revived in the tempest ; the solemn time woke solemn thoughts; and forgotten truths were preached to eager hearers, by an ever increasing band of zealous men, whose one desire was to rekindle in the hearts of others that belief which filled their own, in the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel. These doctrines had hitherto been rather tacitly ignored than openly contradicted. The Articles were subscribed by those who disbelieved * them, as · Articles of Peace,' to use the fashionable euphemism; but by most they were neither believed nor disbelieved. The mass of the clergy troubled not their souls with theological difficulties, but hunted and tippled peacefully with the squirearchy. And now, when such doctrines as Human Corruption and the Divine Atonement were prominently brought forward, they were received by the majority with a storm of opposition. The aspect of the struggle which ensued is most anomalous. Truths embodied in every formulary of the Church, enforced in her homilies, and stereotyped in her liturgy, were assailed as heretical novelties by her ministers. Yet they were compelled, Sunday after Sunday, to affirm in their reading-desk what they contradicted in their pulpit. Though they denied human corruption in the sermon, they were forced in the prayers to acknowledge that all mankind were tied and bound by the chain of “their sins;' though they denounced as fanatical all mention of the Atonement, they were compelled to speak of it themselves, not in their own words, but in the words of the Universal Church, with the deepest pathos and the most enthusiastic love. Such inconsistency was too glaring not to be felt, even by the dullest ; and it gave an overwhelming superiority in argument to the assailing party. Thus their triumph was more rapid and complete than is usual in theological controversies. In less than twenty years the original battle-field was won, and the enemy may be said to have surrendered at discretion. Thenceforward, scarcely a clergyman was to be found in England who preached
Paley, in his defence of the Feathers' Tavern petitioners in 1772, states it as an admitted fact that the only persons who then believed the Articles were the Methodists, who were refused ordination by the
against the doctrine of the creeds. The faith of the Church was restored to the level of her formularies. But, meanwhile, the combatants who had won the victory were no longer united under a single standard ; or rather the banner of the cross, under which they fought, was seen to wave over the encampments of three separate armies. And each of these was more or less recruited, and its character more or less altered, by the enrolment among its troops of a portion of the conquered enemy.
From this period the Evangelical party began to assume the form which it still retains. At first it had comprehended many different shades of theological opinion. All religious men had been classed together by their opponents as enthusiasts, fanatics, and Methodists, and had agreed to forget their minor differences in their essential agreement. But when the great truths of Christianity were no longer denied within the Church, the maintenance of them ceased to be a distinctive badge of felloirship; and other secondary doctrines assumed greater importance, as forming the specific creed of the majority of those who had hitherto been contented with a more catholic bond of union. Of the tenets which then became, and have since continued, the watchwords of the Evangelical camp, the most conspicuous were the two following; first, the universal necessity of
conversion,' and secondly, justification by faith. A third was added, to which subsequent controversy gave more than its original prominence, namely, the solc authority of Scripture as the rule of faith.'
Each of these doctrines may be held and taught in two ways; either as a living principle of action, or as the cornerstone of a technical system. Thus, 'the necessity of conversion,' in the mouths of some who preach it, means that the selfishness of man's earthly nature must be superseded by the strength of a diviner life, before his actions can possess any spiritual worth; in the mouths of others, it means that every individual must experience, on a particular day and hour, certain prescribed sensations, in a defined order.. Again, justification by faith' may be an expression of the truth, that peace and holiness must be derived from conscious union with a present Saviour, and can never flow from a routine of outward observances; or, on the other hand, it may be turned into the scholastic expression of a distinction without a difference. So the sole authority of * Scripture' may symbolise the sacred duty of private judgment, involving the necessity of personal religion; or it may be the mere negation of ecclesiastical authority. Moreover, besides this difference in the mode of apprehending and enforcing these
doctrines, there is a farther difference in the results deducible from them. If either be taken as the basis of a system of speculation, it may be made, by an apparently logical train of argument, to evolve extravagant consequences. And these consequences will be embraced by a certain order of minds, whose creed will be the “exaggeration of Evangelicalism, to which we shall presently return.
The old Evangelical party, the party of Milner, Martyn, and Wilberforce, has for the most part taught its characteristic tenets in their practical and positive, not in their controversial and negative aspect. Accordingly, it has been singularly fruitful in good, both public and private, among rich and poor, to England and to the world. Those great acts of national morality, which will give an abiding glory to the present century, were all either originated or carried by this party in the Church. Its representatives in Parliament, Wilberforce, Stephen, Thornton, Buxton, and their coadjutors, successively led the van of philanthropic progress, and raised the tone of the public conscience. To them is due the suppression of the slave trade in the last generation, to them the abolition of slavery in the present. The reform of prison discipline was effected by their efforts, the criminal law was robbed of its bloodthirsty severity by their aid.* To their benevolent agitation it is owing that Hindoo widows are no longer burnt alive, and that the natives of the most distant and barbarous colonies. know that they will not appeal in vain to English sympathy against English oppression. In more recent times the population of our factories and our mines may thank the exertions of another Evangelical champion, for the investigation into their sufferings, and the improvement in their condition. Even the outcasts of society, neglected and despaired of by others, have been won to civilisation by the untiring benevolence of the same party, and the same leader, the establishers, though not the inventors, of Ragged Schools.' Others have declaimed more copiously on the diseases of the body politic, and the regeneration of society. But while such men have only talked, these single-minded Christians have worked; doing what they could, and the best they knew, to stop visible and pressing evils; while their depreciators content themselves with idly proclaiming that faith is dead, and worship obsolete.
But while they have devoted themselves thus zealously to
• Without the aid of the Evangelical party, and their out-of-doors agitation, the efforts of Romilly and Mackintosh might have remained fruitless.